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Traveling home during her freshman year at Cal Poly was a difficult experience for Emily Gavrilenko.
Gavrilenko, like most Cal Poly freshmen, didn’t have access to a car, so she opted to take the train from Cal Poly to her hometown of Antioch, California.
She arrived at an on-campus bus stop at six in the morning and boarded a bus that drove a roundabout route to the train station — and then she still had to take the train ride itself. In the end, what would have taken Gavrilenko three hours by car took seven by bus and train.
Gavrilenko began searching for an alternative form of long-distance travel and discovered the Cal Poly Ride Share Facebook, a Facebook group for Cal Poly students traveling long distances. The group allows Cal Poly students to buy and sell seats in cars traveling to and from San Luis Obispo.
“It makes travel super affordable and super convenient,” Gavrilenko said of rideshares.
Although rideshare groups are extremely common at colleges and universities, they are not without faults — so Gavrilenko set out to improve the process.
“Being a computer science student, I knew I could easily write code that makes ridesharing so much better,” Gavrilenko said.
Little did Gavrilenko know that recent experience industry management graduate Johnny Morris had a similar experience with rideshares during his time at Cal Poly and, like Gavrilenko, wanted to improve the process.
“Imagine if when booking a flight, you were browsing through both the passengers’ and the captains’ needs; past flights and current flights; and flights going the opposite direction as you — that wouldn’t make any sense, but that’s ultimately how these Facebook groups operate,” Morris said.
Morris decided to set out to remedy this issue by creating an improved platform for ridesharing. He began to assemble a team of students through Reddit, where he found his co-founder Josh Wong, a computer science junior.
“I was really interested in the idea but wanted to understand more of the vision,” Wong said. “We ended up on a call that lasted like four hours, and that’s how I met Johnny.”
Morris also pursued more formal methods of recruitment, posting about the project in the Cal Poly Computer Science Department’s newsletter, which is how Gavrilenko found out about the project.
Gavrilenko said that when she first saw Morris’s post in the newsletter, “[her] initial thought was, ‘Wow, competition. I’ve got to beat him to market,” but she soon realized that she and Morris has “complementary skill sets.”
She reached out to Morris, and they came together with Wong to found Ryde Carpool.
Ryde Carpool is similar to Facebook rideshare groups, allowing college students to buy and sell empty seats in each other’s cars — but its user-friendly interface allows students to filter available rides by departure location, date and time; destination; and the number of seats available in the car. Ryde Carpool is also available to students at any college or university, allowing students from different campuses to ride together.
Ryde Carpool is currently functional, and several students have found rides through the platform. Their current priority is developing an iOS version of the website because 75% of Ryde Carpool users interact with the website on their phones, according to Morris.
The team at Ryde Carpool is aiming to develop their iOS application by the end of the summer — a goal they believe to be feasible with the help of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) Summer Accelerator.
The Summer Accelerator is an intensive, 13-week program that provides Cal Poly students and recent graduates with the resources needed in order to turn their startup ideas into real, scalable businesses.
“Going into the Summer Accelerator, we thought we had an idea of what we wanted to build and do, but having access to all these amazing programming resources and workshops has given us a lot to think about in terms of shifting this from a student project to a business,” Gavrilenko said.
Ryde Carpool hopes to leave the Summer Accelerator with both a completed product and a completed business plan so that they can begin helping Cal Poly students travel with more ease.
“We want to solve this problem not only for ourselves, but for the future generation of Cal Poly students, of California college students and eventually national college students,” Morris said.
The Ryde Carpool team, along with the rest of the 2022 Summer Accelerator cohort, will pitch their startup and showcase the progress they made throughout the summer at Demo Day, on Sept. 13 at 4 p.m. at SLO Brew Rock. In-person and virtual tickets are available here.